You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear
Voices singing, let’s be jolly
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
I live with some self-contradictions. For example, I’m irritated when Christmas paraphernalia appears in stores the day after Hallowe’en and yet I’m the guy playing Christmas music in my car by the third week of November.
Like my taste in music generally, the Christmas music I enjoy is broad in genre and…indefensible, I’m sure! It’s a mish-mash of sacred and secular, classical and country, Christocentric and, ahem, Santa-centric. As I said, indefensible!
A current playlist includes the classic rock-guitar driven Hallelujah, It’s Christmas (38 Special), Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige’s soaring duet What Child is This?, the Pentatonix cover of Mary, Did you Know? and Jimmy Rankin’s Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye to Christmas.
As in the lyrics from Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree above, one of the cultural substitutes to entering into the realities of Advent that is on offer is that of sentimentality, that is, revelling in transitory feelings of love, joy, and nostalgia.
In startling counterpoint to Christmas as ‘the season of sentimentality’ are the jarring and profoundly unsentimental words of Simeon to Mary in Luke 2:34-35:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
In this text, some of the consequences of Messiah Jesus’ arrival are described and the cost to Mary is announced by Simeon in unflinching terms. Some will fall; others will rise. The crowd will be divided by virtue of their response to the new thing God is doing in Messiah Jesus. The child will be spoken against and opposed. As God’s salvation unfolds, the thoughts of many hearts, carefully masked and hidden, will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce Mary’s own soul. She will one day watch her firstborn, bruised, bleeding, and publicly humiliated, take his last breath on the cross.
Back to that phrase “… destined to cause the…rising of many”: There’s the gospel! Jesus lifts his people heavenward. Confidence in Jesus lifts us into the people of God, the New Community, and into the heart of the Father. Bowing low, in humility and repentance, results in being raised. Lifted out of the kingdom of darkness and raised into Messiah’s kingdom of light. And raised on the last day, the Day of Resurrection, death finally defeated, death giving way to victory!
District family, may your proclamation of the Advent news be anointed with unusual power this year and may your own celebrations overflow with joy and gratitude as you reflect on rising with Christ.
And please be reminded today that we in the district office are for you, in your corner, and pray blessing over you this Christmas.